Mike Komisarek

What do the Leafs do with Komisarek?


For all the criticism Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has received over his trade for Phil Kessel, signing defenseman Mike Komisarek to a big free-agent contract might have been his worst move.

Komisarek was a healthy scratch last night in Boston, with coach Ron Wilson choosing the likes of Cody Franson and rookie Jake Gardiner over the veteran with the $4.5-million cap hit.

“I didn’t have the best last game,” Komisarek said, as per the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox. “I’ve got to try and re-focus, re-set and come back strong.”

Komisarek inked a five-year, $22.5-million deal with Toronto in the summer of 2009, a move Burke was mostly applauded for making.

“We are extremely pleased to add a player with Mike’s ability and leadership qualities to our lineup,” Burke said at the time. “He’s a respected competitor in this league and we know that he will bring his hard-nosed approach to our team on a consistent basis.”

The signing was all part of Burke’s plan to toughen up the Leafs and build a winning team quickly through free agency. (“July 1 will be our draft.”)

The plan didn’t work.

Komisarek appeared in just 34 games in 2009-10 before shoulder surgery sidelined him for the last half of the season.

In 2010-11, poor play saw his ice-time dip to 13:38 per game.

Komisarek is a big guy that likes to play physical, but he’s not the fleetest of foot and doesn’t add much in the way of offense or puck-moving ability. Prior to the lockout, his size and strength might’ve outweighed his shortcomings. Not in today’s NHL though.

Komisarek worked on getting lighter and quicker over the summer and his performance in the preseason was promising at times.

“Our game is evolving, so you have to be able to move,” Wilson said in September. “That’s what was getting him into a little trouble last year. He did not have much time whenever he got the puck, and he realized that. Getting himself even a 10th of a second of more time to make a decision, that helps.”

Last night was obviously a step back.

So what do the Leafs do if Komisarek can’t reinvent himself? There’s been plenty of speculation he could be sent to the AHL’s Marlies, but Burke and Wilson have quashed that idea.

The Leafs have very little cap space to play with, so a healthy $4.5-million defenseman sitting in the press box doesn’t look good on Burke, no matter how much the GM lauds Komisarek for being a positive influence in the dressing room.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”